Miami-Dade police officials announced that at least six people are confirmed dead and nine others injured after a pedestrian bridge collapsed near Florida International University (FIU) in Miami.
The 950-ton, 174-foot-long bridge collapsed over the eight-lane Tamiami Trail on Thursday afternoon, crushing at least eight vehicles, officials said.
Miami-Dade police detective Alvaro Zabaleta announced the deaths on Friday morning and said the operation was now moving from rescue to recovery—meaning police don’t believe there are any survivors. Miami-Dade fire rescue workers, engineers, and homicide detectives started the slow process of clearing the rubble, removing the dead, and documenting evidence on Thursday night.
“What we can confirm at this point at least we can confirm six fatalities,” Zabaleta told reporters. “There is the possibility, the sad possibility, that under the concrete there may be additional vehicles.”
None of the dead have been named. The condition of the injured is still unknown, but one of the victims reportedly died at the hospital.
While police work to identify the people who died Thursday, state and federal investigators have began trying to determine what caused bridge to collapse. Florida Governor Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio were on the scene Thursday night with experts from the National Transportation Safety Board. They pledged to figure out what happened.
“There will clearly be an investigation to find out exactly what happened and why this happened,” Gov Scott said. “But the most important thing we can do right now is pray for the individuals that ended up in the hospital for their full recovery. Pray for the family members that have lost loved ones.”
Rubio, who has taught at FIU as an adjunct professor, said the bridge was built for safety reasons after a student was killed while crossing the highway there last year.
“It was also going to be a signature project, one that people would identify with the school and this community, and one of a kind in terms of its engineering design,” Rubio said. “To see it on the ground there today and underneath it those who lost their lives as a result of this and those who have been injured, it’s just so tragic.”
The bridge was meant to connect FIU to a student housing area in Sweetwater. It had long been requested by students and university staff so they could avoid the highway traffic, the Miami Herald reports.
The bridge, which cost $14.2m, was funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. According to a brochure published on the FIU website, it was supposed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and last over 100 years. The bridge was assembled on March 10 in just six hours using a method called “accelerated bridge construction” to avoid disrupting traffic.
It is still unclear whether a design flaw or a fault during construction caused the structure to collapse, but Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said workers were conducting a stress test on the bridge Thursday.
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